“Oi! Headcase! You defending Templars now?”
Scowling at the insult, he glanced up from the book he’d been reading and slowly assessed the trio arranged in front of him. He then scoffed and looked back down as he shifted just slightly in his chair, recrossing his ankles where his feet rested on the table in front of him. “Only the one in my head.”
“Yeah?” taunted one of the fellows. “We overheard what you said to Crane. Her insulting him is as good as insulting you?”
“Which makes you a Templar,” snarled another.
Sighing, he slowly closed his book over a finger to hold his place, swung his feet down, and rose from his chair. Placing one hand on the table between them, he leaned forward and borrowed just a hair of Ezio’s most dangerous tone as he growled, “I would have you remember that there are also two Mentors in my head as well as another Assassin.”
The first who’d spoken scowled, saying, “Templar’s the only one we care about.” At that the one who’d been silent still cracked his knuckles and the third tensed. He focused in on that one as he slowly set his book on the table and removed his finger from the pages.
“I wouldn’t,” he cautioned.
The third, the one who’d point-blank called him a Templar, bared his teeth before he loosed his hidden blade and lunged. Altaïr and Ezio both started to come forward, both ready to take what they thought of as children into hand, but Haytham beat them there. “Allow me,” he drawled aloud and easily dodged, grasping the wrist of the man as he made the lunge across the narrow table. Then he twisted sharply, hauling the man onto the table on his back and engaging his own hidden blade to press against his throat.
Looking up at the other two, he arched an eyebrow and asked politely, “Shall we continue this mockery of a fight or are you boys done playing like men? Personally I would be glad to continue the lesson but I seriously doubt that the Brotherhood would appreciate three of its Assassins out of commission even if my own Order is currently fallen.”
“Currently?” repeated the one who’d been talking the most, the one he’d pegged as the ringleader. “Are you intending on bringing it back? Betraying us?”
He laughed sharply at that then replied, “I am not, though I doubt you will believe my word. Simply stating the fact that no matter how many times over the many years one has thought the other dead, the supposedly slain one has risen again.” Glancing down at the man he held on the table, he disengaged his blade and quickly stepped backwards into the more open part of the room in case they decided to come after him again. Gesturing at the man as he slid off of the table, he asked, “What about a gesture of good faith?”
“You held your blade to my throat!” exploded the man.
“And you attacked me with yours,” he snapped back in the exact tone he’d used with his men when they’d done something particularly stupid. “Thus I believe I am in the right given that I was attacked first.”
The ringleader tensed up then, like he was ready to try to attack himself, then the two behind him abruptly bolted as a look of horror overcame his face. As the man fled as well, he turned to look over his shoulder to see William standing in the second door that led into what they’d turned into a library. And he looked incredibly disappointed.
“Haytham,” he greeted sternly and now trouble was certain. He only called them by their own individual names when he was well and truly annoyed.
“William,” he answered sharply, perfectly willing to play this game with the other man.
William narrowed his eyes then sighed before asking, “Did you really have to draw on him?”
“And have the boy believe me weak?”
“They’re men without direction at the moment with the Templars fallen and Juno gone as well.”
He arched an eyebrow at that and questioned, “Does that somehow make me a fair target?” When the man didn’t respond, he took a step forward and growled, “Does that somehow make your son a fair target?” as Desmond’s emotions bled through. There was a moment when silence reigned and he snapped backwards like he’d been struck.
“I did not say that!”
“No,” he snarled, as Haytham faded to be replaced by Altaïr, “but your silence spoke for you.”
William closed his eyes for a moment then looked up, asking, “What would you have me do? I have no direction to give them and we’ve just finished fighting a war we never expected to win. Their blood is still up.”
“No excuse!” he thundered back. Then he turned away, hands clenched, teeth bared, and felt Connor well up, silently demanding control. As it was relinquished, he closed his eyes and let out a harsh breath before saying quietly, “We would have you protect your son.”
The words struck a cord because there was a sharp intake of breath from behind him.
“I’ll do what I can.”
“That is no promise.”
“I can’t promise you I can make things right, son,” murmured William. “I’m sorry.”
Connor faded and for a brief moment he felt like Desmond alone as he closed his eyes, fighting the slight quiver in his jaw. Nodding, he said, “Me too, Dad,” before he left the library without looking over his shoulder. Apparently it had been too much for him to hope that they could find a place to belong after all that had happened. They were too different, even to those they shared the most with.
Which left but one path to take.
As he finished packing what few belongings they’d gathered together over the years, he looked up to see Shaun leaning in the open doorway of the room. The other man did not look the least bit surprised by his actions and, in fact, looked more than a little relieved by them.
Shaun shrugged and casually replied, “People fear what they don’t understand.”
He snorted in response and shouldered his pack before saying, “Now there is a truth to teach people.”
“Where are you going to go?”
“Wherever my feet take me at the moment.” Smiling, he tilted his head back and continued, “Perhaps I’ll head to Istanbul. Or Jerusalem. Maybe even poke my nose at Masyaf itself. It’d be interesting to see how they’ve changed since we have last seen them.”
Shaun nodded then asked, “Are you leaving us?”
“No,” he replied, knowing what the other man was asking.
“Right.” The other man straightened then, pulling a cell phone out of his back pocket and extending it. “Here. Reception’s shoddy right now what with everything Juno and the fighting did but I imagine it’ll get better eventually, so keep in touch. I put my number and Rebecca’s in there as well as our e-mail.”
“She’s still dealing with you nearly dying and everything. We all are.”
He smiled bitterly at that and murmured, “Aren’t we all.” Taking the phone, he held it in one hand while extending the other. “Thank you, Shaun.”
Shaun just smiled and grasped his hand tightly, saying, “Just keep in touch, Desmond.”
“We will,” he assured and then he stepped out into the hallway, striding towards the building’s exit. As he stepped out into the open air, he paused for a moment and looked back, smiling sadly to himself. Then he began making his way down the concrete path that led out towards the parking lot and whatever awaited them beyond.